Monday 19 February 2018

War-time romance fuels wheel passion

Letters written by his parents during the Second World War gave Campbell Spray some clues to his love of cars

HAVE you ever wondered where you get your passions and fascinations from?

I have loved cars since I was little, and it is great privilege to be able to write about them still as a very small part of my job with this paper. However, last week I found more clues to where this part of me might have come from.

When my father died 10 years ago I inherited a box containing hundreds of letters he had sent my mother during the war years and until the late Forties.

They had met in Cairo after my father, a Royal Marine officer, had been evacuated from Crete in 1941 following the German invasion of the island.

My mother was a senior nurse with the Queen Alexandra Royal Nursing Corps attached to the Allied forces in Egypt.

While they wrote a couple of times weekly to each other until they married in 1947, only my father's letters survive. He was on active service around a number of theatres of operation and the letters wouldn't have been as easily stored as those to my mother.

Along with the letters, which I am using for a book, I have a number of photographs from that period very diligently labelled by my father in the best military tradition. Searching for the one that illustrates the article about first cars on page one, I also found these three.

The most impressive is of my mother, then Nursing Sister Ellen Menzies, with a DeSoto Coupe in 1942, which my father and mother had borrowed from a nightclub owner. The second shows my father, then a captain in the Royal Marines, with his Humber staff car the year before in Egypt and the third shows, according to the caption, "Marine Gould, driver for Capt LCS Spray in Egypt 1941-42".

Obviously my parents had the same passion for cars that I have. I'm pleased that the horrors of war could be occasionally relieved by spending a few hours in such lovely vehicles as the DeSoto.

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